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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Historian Celebrates 250 Years of the Veterinary Profession During the Annual AVMA Meeting.

Posted July 24, 2011
Donald F. Smith, Cornell University

Dr. Fred Born is a Wisconsin veterinarian who is on a mission to research and record some of the important historical records of veterinary medicine. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Fred is a 1962 graduate of Michigan State University who established and was the senior partner in a six-veterinarian mixed animal practice in Fond du Lac (WI), where he concentrated on small animal medicine and surgery. An author of three veterinary textbooks, Fred has received numerous awards including being named the Veterinarian of the Year in 1971 by his state colleagues.

Dr. Fred Born with the display he prepared for the 2011 AVMA meeting.
Photo by the author.

An avid historian, Dr. Born feels that “understanding what has happened in the past gives us an important insight into historical challenges and opportunities as we prepare for the future”. To that end, he developed an exhibit to celebrate this year as the 250th anniversary of the veterinary profession. The display was presented at the recent AVMA meeting in St. Louis, Missouri and attracted an enthusiastic gathering of veterinarians interested in the history of the profession. A special feature was an extensive collection of late 18th and 19th century veterinary instruments, many of which are in mint condition

His tribute to the world’s first veterinary college in Lyon, France which was established in 1761 included a series of collectable post cards as well a life-sized image of the college’s founder, Claude Bourgelet.  The focus on the European legacy delighted the French delegation led by Prof Jean-Fran├žois Chary.

Dr. Born (right) with Prof. Jean-Francois Chary (center), leader of the French
delegation at the AVMA meeting. Left is Prof. Dr. Stephane Martinot,
Dean Veterinary School Lyon, France.
Photo by the author.
About 10 years ago, Dr. Born and colleagues interviewed past presidents of the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association, including several who had graduated during the Depression. He has concluded that the generation of veterinarians who graduated during the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s has seen unprecedented changes in the profession as well as in societal expectations and life styles.

Under Dr. Born's leadership, members of the American Veterinary Medical History Society are encouraging state associations to promote the collection of interviews with veterinarians who are now in their 80s and 90s, “to record this priceless history for the benefit of the profession and as a legacy of future generations of veterinarians”.

Dr. Fred Born's exhibit to honor the 250th anniversary of the veterinary medical profession.
AVMA meeting, St. Louis, Missouri. Photo courtesy Dr. Born.
Dr. Smith welcomes comments at

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Veterinary Student's Externship at Johns Hopkins Hospital

Guest Blog by Jennifer Morrissey, Cornell Class of 2013
Posted July 23, 2011
Ms. Morrissey scheduled her observing externship at Johns Hopkins Hospital during the summer between her second and third year veterinary college. She has a career interest in anesthesiology.
As I walked into Johns Hopkins Hospital on my first day of a two and a half week externship in anesthesia, to say I was worried is an understatement. Was externing at a human hospital a big mistake? Was I going to learn anything that would be valid in my own veterinary career? But when I reached the office of Andrea Collins, my coordinator for the externship, I was immediately relieved—her office was in the Blalock building.
Alfred Blalock was a surgeon at Johns Hopkins in the 1940s. He and his assistant, Vivien Thomas, perfected a technique colloquially called the blue baby procedure, in which the heart vessels in the affected infants were rerouted to assist oxygenation of the blood in the lungs.
Why was this story so comforting to me? Because the surgery was developed using hundreds of dogs, and finally perfected in a dog named Anna who became so famous that her portrait hands at Johns Hopkins University. A technique similar to the one developed for Anna is still used in veterinary patients today. It is also a procedure that we study in our first-year curriculum at Cornell. The simple name of the building (Blalock) reminded me that, at the end of the day, human and veterinary medicine are one medicine.
I had the pleasure of spending the next two weeks observing and learning from some of the most diligent and instructive residents I could have imagined. Every day was a learning experience with lessons ranging from how to conduct yourself in the O.R., to airway management and, my favorite subjects as an anesthesiology geek, pharmacology and physiology. The principles were all the same. Don’t touch sterile drapes! Know how to make sure your endotracheal tube is, indeed, in the trachea. Which drugs are best for sedating a patient? Beware polarizing blockers in a patient with kidney disease. Maintain fluid volume. When should we use colloids instead of crystalloids?

Veterinary student Jennifer Morrissey recently completed
an externship at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Photo courtest of Ms. Morrissey.

As I rotated among a half dozen residents, I was reminded that medicine (whether human or veterinary) medicine is not just a science, it is an art. Some rules, of course, are written in stone. But I had the opportunity to discuss differing opinions among the residents. Should I start a blood transfusion now, or wait to check the hemoglobin level? Which opiate should I administer to this patient? And there were no wrong answers; it was just a difference among artists. 
It was in these artistic details that I came to grasp some of the important differences between human and veterinary medicine. The most striking difference presented itself on the second day of the externship. While chatting with a man to ease his worry over getting an epidural block, he grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “I’m not going to wake up from this, am I?”
It may seem obvious, but it is truly striking to realize that human medicine patients can talk. I was completely unprepared for this scenario! Cornell has, of course, educated me on how to talk to animal owners and trainers, and how to project serenity while working around patients. The fact that veterinary patients cannot talk is often taken as a challenge for diagnosticians. It also makes the projection of empathy a more physical practice - a petting hand, a soothing tone.
As this man looked at me, I became fully aware of how different it must be to care for other people. How do you soothe without lying? How do you emotionally separate from someone who is so much like yourself, who can understand your words? Over the weeks, I witnessed many more humbling experiences and watched as the residents dealt with each one with grace and kindness. 
I observed many other differences while at Hopkins. The precautions and monitoring of patients is taken to a whole different level in human medicine. There are also certain drug differences that exist between the two fields, ketamine being a major example. Unlike veterinarians, physicians also have to deal with the nasty 90 degree angle of the human trachea when placing an endotracheal tube―in supine position no less! 
But at the end of the day, the warm welcome and tutoring from the residents and attending anesthesiologists made me feel like I was among colleagues. I was extremely disappointed when my externship drew to a close, but I left feeling better prepared for both the art and science of one medicine.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

An Interview with the Dean of the Anticipated Veterinary College at Lincoln Memorial University

Posted July 17, 2011
Written by Donald F. Smith, DVM, Cornell University

In a course I give at Cornell on the history of veterinary medicine, I ask students to predict where the next veterinary college will be established. Because most of the 28 current colleges are part of land grant universities in small or moderately-sized cities, we talk about the prospects of building a veterinary college in a large metropolitan area, affiliated with a major medical school and also a school of public health to take advantage of the growing awareness of the need to unite human and animal health.

Some students were surprised, therefore, to read the recent news reports that new veterinary colleges are being considered in small college campuses in rural communities of Magnolia, Arkansas and Harrogate, Tennessee.[1]

Dr. Randy Evans, dean of the proposed
College of Veterinary and Comparative Medicine,
Lincoln Memorial University (Tenn).
Photo provided by Dr. Evans.
To get a better understanding of the anticipated College of Veterinary and Comparative Medicine at Tennessee's Lincoln Memorial University (LMU), I talked to the dean of the new venture, Dr. Randy Evans. A graduate of Auburn University, Evans was program director of two- and four-year veterinary technology programs at LMU for 19 years. He also directs the School of Allied Health Sciences that has programs in medical technology, social work, athletic training and physical therapy. The university has a program in osteopathic medicine.

Lincoln Memorial University is a small, private non-profit university that emphasizes preparing graduates to work in Appalachia and other underserved areas. So when Dr. Evans attended national meetings on veterinary education last year and learned of the emergence of veterinary colleges that use private practices rather than costly university medical centers to teach the practical aspects of clinical medicine, the wheels began to turn back at LMU.

The university also adopted the concept of a six-year combined undergraduate and veterinary degree program, rather than the more typical eight years to complete both curricula. “This will be the first two-plus-four year program in the country”, he told me, “and that will help reduce student debt, which is one of the current impediments to working in rural communities”.

Dr. Evans and his colleagues at LMU are hiring faculty for anticipated opening in fall 2012. An initial visit from the AVMA’s accrediting body is scheduled for this fall. However, many veterinarians are concerned that the recent growth in veterinary enrollment in the 28 established colleges is compromising the ability of new graduates to find meaningful employment at a time when the economic climate remains uncertain. Dr. Evans responds, “We believe that veterinarians can still make a living in Appalachia and other underserved areas if they are willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard”.

Though LMU is located just 50 miles from the Knoxville campus of Tennessee’s current veterinary college, Evans anticipates recruiting students from a national pool because they do not receive direct support from the state.

[1] A third veterinary program is being considered at Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona, located in Phoenix metro area.

Dr. Smith invites comments at

Friday, July 15, 2011

Douglas G. Aspros to become first AVMA President from New York State in over 30 years.

Posted July 15, 2011
Donald F. Smith, Cornell University

This historical blog is in recognition of the 150th anniversary 
of the American Veterinary Medical Association (1863-2013).

Earlier today, Dr. Douglas G. Aspros of  White Plains, New York, was selected as the president-elect of the American Veterinary Medical Association at the AVMA’s annual meeting in St. Louis. He will ascend to the presidency in August 2012 which will mark the beginning of the year celebrating the 150th anniversary of the AVMA.

Dr. Douglas G. Aspros and Dee Aspros
 at AVMA meeting, July 15, 2011
Photo by the author

A veterinary practitioner with over 35 years of clinical experience in companion animal medicine, Dr. Aspros is owner-manager of two general practices and one emergency practice in the metro NYC area.

Dr. Aspros has been active in association governance at all levels in veterinary medicine, and has expertise in veterinary educational programs.

Having served on the Westchester County Board of Health for more than 25 years (and president since 1994), he understands the critical role that public health plays in safeguarding human, animal and environmental health.

Dr. Aspros will be the first New York State veterinarian to serve as AVMA president since Dr. Stanley Aldrich in 1980-81, and the first Cornell graduate since Dr. D.L. Proctor of Lexington, KY in 1985-86.

A member of Cornell’s veterinary class of 1975, Dr. Aspros is an intelligent and insightful veterinarian who believes it is critical that the AVMA become a modern, strategic, and effective organization, and one that leads rather than reacts to the problems and opportunities that confront veterinary medicine.

Dr. Smith invites comments at